Manifesting new methods, ideas, processes or technology in constructive human activity. Innovation is distinguished from creativity per se in that whereas creativity involves new ideas, insights and formulations, innovation involves the application of these new concepts.
Innovations have been described as methodical creations of the human spirit, namely all novelties that once created can be usefully and repeatedly applied. (This therefore excludes artistic creations, since a symphony can be repeated but not applied. On the other hand, novelties in orchestration can be applied and therefore constitute innovations). In a more restricted sense, it is the process that turns an invention through development, pilot manufacture, sales propaganda, etc. into a marketable product. The most successful innovations are not necessarily the consequence of feats of creativity but derive rather from the development of improved substitutes for products and services already in existence. As such they are vitally important to the economic system.
Innovation as a human activity has been practised since the earliest beginnings of human social organization and technology as a means of improving productivity, efficiency and human well-being. It has been a particularly evident theme during the period of global industrialization, primarily due to the enormous scope and complexity of modern technology. However, it is only in recent years that public and private sector management have begun to focus attention on the methods of encouraging and promoting innovation as a strategy of development and growth.
Today efforts to encourage innovation are found in research laboratories, factory assembly lines, quality circles, offices, government bureaucracies, service agencies, development programmes, social organizations, professional disciplines, classrooms, and health care institutions. Ways are required to support and reward innovative efforts and to spread successful innovations to other groups and wider applications. Innovation today is often linked to the strategy of participation, enabling organizations and societies to utilize more effectively all of the creative resources at their disposal. Interestingly enough, recent studies on innovations in industry suggest that most new applications and industrial products today are conceived not in research laboratories but by end-users who are faced with trying to invent new solutions to real needs.
Encouraging innovation is useful whenever the external environment is changing faster than an organization's capacity to respond to it. Under these circumstances, change, or innovation capability itself becomes the "business" of the organization, and ways must be found to involve all members of the organization in conceptualizing and implementing this capacity.
Innovation for its own sake can lead to a disregard of history and the wisdom of living tradition. "If it works, don't fix it" is a warning against the naive conviction that anything new is better.